An update on our Motorola acquisition

Since we announced our plans to acquire Motorola Mobility, we've been excited about the positive reaction to the proposed deal -- particularly from our partners who have told us that they're enthusiastic about our defense of the Android ecosystem.

And as David Drummond said when we announced our plans in August, we're confident that this deal will be approved. We believe very strongly this is a pro-competitive transaction that is good for Motorola Mobility, good for consumers, and good for our partners.

That said, we know that close scrutiny is part of the process and we've been talking to the U.S. Department of Justice over the past few weeks. Today we received what is called a "second request," which means that the DOJ is asking for more information so that they can continue to review the deal. (This is pretty routine; we’ve gotten these kind of requests before.)

While this means we won't be closing right away, we're confident that the DOJ will conclude that the rapidly growing mobile ecosystem will remain highly competitive after this deal closes. We'll be working closely and cooperatively with them as they continue their review.

Testifying before the U.S. Senate on competition

This afternoon at 2 PM E.T., Eric Schmidt will testify before the U.S. Senate to talk about Google’s approach to competition. He will deliver a simple message: we welcome competition. It makes us better. It makes our competitors better. Most importantly, it means better products for our users.

The hearing will be webcast and you can read his written and his oral testimony.

Search data reveals people turn to the Internet in crises

(Cross-posted from the blog)

People often share stories with us about the ways the Internet has helped them during natural disasters. Whether it’s accessing information about the event, communicating with loved ones during a crisis or finding out how to help respond in the aftermath, the web plays a valuable role.

We looked up some statistics from our search data for several natural disasters to get insights into this phenomenon. We see two consistent trends in search behavior and internet use in the affected areas: a substantial (and often dominant) proportion of searches are directly related to the crises; and people continue to search and access information online even while traffic and search levels drop temporarily during and immediately following the crises. While in some cases internet access is restricted due to infrastructure failures, generally Internet Service Providers continue to provide connectivity and users take advantage of it. The findings show just how resilient the internet can be in times of crises, compared to other infrastructure.

We expect these trends will continue, and to a great extent this drives the ongoing work of the Google Crisis Response team to improve the information available on the 'net during crises.

Joplin Tornado, Joplin, MO, USA, May 2011
The week of this year’s tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri, searches for terms related to help, safety and recovery were significantly up from normal levels. [Disaster relief] was 2054 percent greater than normal and [FEMA], [American Red Cross], and [National Weather Service] showed increases of 400-1000%. Despite the tragedy, in which 25 percent of the town was destroyed and 75 percent damaged, we still saw search traffic at 58 percent of normal levels the day of the tornado, and an immediate recovery toward normal Internet traffic occured within a day of the event.

Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, LA, USA, August 2005
During Hurricane Katrina, one of the largest U.S. disasters in recent memory, terms like [new orleans], [hurricane] and [katrina] topped search queries while search queries for resource providers like FEMA and the American Red Cross grew the fastest, according to our data. Even as 90% of the population was evacuated from New Orleans, we still saw search traffic at more than 50 percent of normal in Louisiana and 20% of normal in New Orleans, based on the previous five-day average.

The Internet has proven to be an essential resource during natural disasters internationally as well.

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, Northern Coast, Japan, March, 2011
During the Japan earthquake and tsunami, searches for earthquake information and impacts including terms like [outage], [tokyo electric power] and [rolling blackouts] gew the fasted and also topped the list of most searched queries across Japan. In fact, even in the hardest hit areas, where mobile and landline communications were disrupted, Internet services were largely unaffected. During this time, people entered 620,000 records into Google Person Finder, a tool developed by the Google Crisis Response team to help people find missing friends and loved ones in the aftermath of such disasters.

Chile Earthquake, Maule Chile, February 2010
Immediately following the earthquake, people searching online were actively looking for earthquake information; earthquake and news source search terms became eight of the top 10 queries. [Terremoto] was the most searched term, and two online news sources, Terra and Emol, and the National Office for Emergencies [onemi] also appeared as top keywords. While there was no search traffic for 15 minutes after the earthquake, within one day searches had recovered to 25 percent of normal traffic, and search traffic returned to pre-earthquake levels within just four days.

Haiti Earthquake, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, January 2010
The month of the Haiti earthquake, [seisme]—or “earthquake”—was the fastest-growing search term, and it continued its surface as a frequently searched term for almost two months after the earthquake. In the capital city of Port-Au-Prince, at the center of the earthquake, search traffic stopped momentarily, but did not completely disappear even when the three submarine Internet cables were cut as a result of the earthquake. As outlined by this U.S. Department of Homeland Security Communications Summary, Internet Service Providers were able to quickly reroute connections through a microwave relay wireless communication between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. This allowed traffic to return to rise within one day, and reach normal levels within a few months, despite ongoing damage to the city and country’s infrastructure.

We’re excited about continuing our work to create and support products that make the Internet even more useful to people looking for information and communication during crises.

Making Copyright Work Better Online: A Progress Report

In December, we announced four initiatives to tackle the problem of copyright infringement online. We’ve made considerable progress on each front, and we will continue to evolve our efforts in all four areas in the months to come.

  • Acting on reliable copyright takedown requests within 24 hours. We promised to build tools to make it easier for rightsholders to submit DMCA takedown requests for Google products (starting with Blogger and Web Search), and to reduce our average response time to 24 hours or less for submissions using these new tools. We built the tools earlier this year, and they are now being successfully used by more than a dozen content industry partners who together account for more than 75% of all URLs submitted in DMCA takedowns for Web Search. Our response time for these partners is now well below the 24 hour target. In the coming months, we will be making these tools available more broadly to those who have established a track record of submitting valid takedown requests.

  • Preventing terms that are closely associated with piracy from appearing in Autocomplete. Beginning in January, we started filtering terms closely associated with infringement from Google Autocomplete, our feature that predicts search queries based on popular searches from other users.

  • Improving our AdSense anti-piracy review. We have always prohibited the use of our AdSense program on web pages that provide infringing materials, and we routinely terminate publishers who violate our policies. In recent months, we have worked hard to improve our internal enforcement procedures. In April, we were among the first companies to certify compliance in the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB’s) Quality Assurance Certification program, through which participating advertising companies will take steps to enhance buyer control over the placement and context of advertising and build brand safety. In addition, we have invited rightsholder associations to identify their top priority sites for immediate review, and have acted on those tips when we have received them.

  • Improving visibility of authorized preview content in search results. We have launched Music Rich Snippets, which allow legitimate music sites to highlight content in the snippets that appear in Google’s Web Search results. Rhapsody and MySpace are among the first to implement this feature, which has been developed using open web markup standards, and we are looking forward to more sites and search engines marking up their pages. We hope that authorized music sites will take advantage of Music Rich Snippets to make their preview content stand out in search results.

These four initiatives have been an important part of our work combating piracy these last several months, but we’ve been pursuing other avenues as well.  We continue to believe that making high-value content available in authorized forms is a crucial part of the battle against online infringement. We have expanded our movie rental services on YouTube and launched the Google eBookstore, featuring a wide array of books from authors and publishers. We also continue to improve YouTube’s Content ID system to help more copyright owners (including song-writers and music publishers) to monetize their works and are working with WIPO on a rights registry that will help African musicians license their works. 

There is plenty more to be done, and we look forward to further refining and improving our processes in ways that help both rightsholders and users.